Tim Berners-Lee in the New Scientist

I was reading the New Scientist over the weekend, and came across this interview with Tim Berners-Lee. [My apologies, but unless you have a subscription the magazine won’t let you get past the article stub].

I’ll paraphrase what the interview said; any and all errors and misinterpretations are mine and mine alone. Where I have quoted directly from the article, this has been made clear.

  • Web was about putting documents and images online; semantic web is about putting data online.
  • We can publish articles and papers now, but not the underlying data. We need the data.
  • To publish this data we need a mark-up language for data. So we created RDF.
  • RDF lets you put data on the web and make connections so we have one big database.
  • When we free this data magical things can and will happen.
  • Some get the power of this; many don’t; the life sciences guys are good at getting it.
  • Privacy and data protection are issues, but nowhere near as much as people make out
  • Web did not fulfil potential for showing the “how”, stayed on the “what”
  • As HTML became a truly powerful presentation medium, looking improved and editing died
  • Blogs and wikis are helping change that, though we have much to learn about social software
  • “We have to learn about how people like to make groups and learn about the social systems involved in collaborations as well as the technical side of things”
  • “The internet was designed not to care what was done with it. It just moved packets of information from one place to another: the fundamental properties that make the internet work could not be held to ransom”
  • “The internet is all about division between layers”
  • “The web tries not to prefer one sort of information over another”
  • “The web needs to be the way it is to work”
  • “Before the web, and even now, a lot of the systems were being designed to be completely consistent. The way we’ve traditionally done that is to make top-down hierarchical systems, whether in organisations or in programming. This has always been considered a good thing. The maxims of top-down, structured programming are “information-hiding” so that modules don’t see into each other but are black boxes tied together at the edges.
  • “The maxim of the web, however, is if you have something important, give it a label and then people will link to it.
  • “….by trying to constrain ourselves to use hierarchical systems, we’ve reached the limit of scale”

Lots of good stuff. More later.

Let me know what you think

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